Summit ’13 Review: I Am Not a Tool

Guest post by Liz Herman

After recently attending the STC Summit in May, I can confidently tell you that I am not a tool. I mean, no one came out and specifically told me that I was not a tool. I just decided, after attending a dozen sessions and networking with a terrifically talented group of technical communicators, that I could in no way be considered a tool. I will not be sharing this blog post with my family lest they have reason to disagree with this self-assessment. I also thought I would submit this blog before the evaluation forms came back from my Managing Technical Knowledge: Overcoming Roadblocks presentation.

So, back to tools. And not being one. Here’s the deal. I am shamelessly behind the times when it comes to the latest tools. So how could I be one? Oh, sure, you’ve all probably heard about (and use) tools like Prezi, Audacity, and Evernote, but these were new tools to me for me to add to my technical communication tool belt. One of the biggest takeaways from the Summit was, for me, learning about these new tools. I learned about more than three new tools, by the way, but I don’t want to overwhelm my readers with a list of tools and then be accused of being a tool because I don’t consider my audience and their busyness and the fact that they’ve already been using these tools for a long, long, long time. Does that make sense?

I discovered something else that seemed to solidify my non-tool status. It feels like I am the only technical communicator out there doing technical communication stuff with Microsoft Office Suite. My tools are Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, and, yes, Outlook. I don’t have the Adobe Technical Communication Suite, I clearly don’t have any Flare, and I haven’t even experienced David Pogue’s Tile World. I’m making it work with the basics. I trust there are others of you out there doing the same thing? The good news is that you are a not alone and you are certainly not a tool.


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  • Oh, thank goodness! I’m not the only one who thinks like this. This seems to be an obsession with many employers, because they want to throw someone into a position without having to do any training–or at least minimal training. I don’t know all the tools either, but I’m a quick learner, and many of the tools of the tech comm trade are generally variations of each other, I find. I think that if employers could lose their obsession with knowing specific tools and specific editions of tools, they could still fill positions quickly, and while there might be a little bit of ramp up, they may end up with a more qualified and profient WRITER than tool operator. D’ya know what I mean? Thanks for writing this article! Excellent!

    • Hi, Danielle, thank you for your comments. I do know what you mean and I am in agreement! I think highlighting the “quick learner” aspect of our skills is a great way to work with the tool issue.

  • To all of you who question the value of attending the Summit or the value of your membership, here is another testimonial. Allow me to add, that the Summit is a refresher of good practices.

  • Oh God, yes Liz! In the same boat here. Ms Office plus Lotus Notes, the dynamic bickering duo. I automatically skip tool based presentations at The Summit, and work on the soft skils.

    • Thanks for the comment, Carol Anne. It’s good to know there are technical communicators using similar tools! Or “non-tools” as the case may be! That’s such a great thing about the Summit, too! We can choose those progressions and tracks that work best for us. It seems like there’s something for everyone.

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